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BASEBALL HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 175: SOME NUMBERS TO CHEW ON
Published February 2, 1995
MLB owners "abandoned their demand for a salary cap Wednesday" by endorsing the luxury tax the players proposed December 22, reports Tracy Ringolsby in this morning's ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS. However, the owners' luxury tax was "considerably higher" than what the players had presented. The owners said their proposal was meant as a "framework" to spark negotiations. Braves President Stan Kasten: "You can't negotiate religion. When the players say, 'We won't have a salary cap,' that's religion. This is numbers. You can negotiate numbers." With the players "splitting time between negotiations and lobbying for repeal of baseball's antitrust exemption, the union was not expected to make a counteroffer until Friday" (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 2/2). While Dodger Player Rep Brett Butler called it a "step forward," the union "privately balked at the plan." Said Royals Player Rep David Cone: "It's going to be a very long week" (I.J. Rosenberg, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 2/2). Another union official: "If your looking through a haystack and found a couple of quarters, I suppose you can say that's progress" (Jerome Holtzman, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/2). THE DETAILS: The owners plan has a 4-year phase-in period. In the fourth year,the tax rate on payrolls in excess of $35M would be 75%. On payrolls in excess of $42M, it would be 100%. The owners also proposed a minimum team payroll of $25M. The players' December plan called for a 5% tax on the portion of club payrolls that exceed the league average by 20-130%; 10% on excesses of 130-160%; and 25% on anything in excess of 160%. The owners also proposed expanding the amateur draft, interleague play, eliminating salary arbitration and creating restricted free agency for players with between four and six years of service (Tracy Ringolsby, ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 2/2). The proposal included higher minimum salaries for players with one-four years of service, starting at $125,000 (Larry Whiteside, BOSTON GLOBE, 2/2). The owners also included the joint "industry growth fund" -- first proposed by the players (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 2/2). In Philadelphia, Jayson Stark notes "the other notable aspect" was that the owners addressed "every aspect of these negotiations instead of simply the big player-cost issue" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 2/2). WHAT'S THE ATMOSPHERE? In New York, Tom Keegan notes the talks "had a less bitter edge than past talks, but the two sides didn't get any closer to an agreement" (N.Y. POST, 2/2). Baltimore SUN's Peter Schmuck calls the overall mood of the union after the first day of talks "surprisingly upbeat" (Baltimore SUN, 2/2). N.Y. TIMES headline: "Owners' Proposal Isn't New, Players Say" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/2). WHY CLINTON INTERVENED? Three labor lawyers, all experienced with federal mediators, told SPORTS ILLUSTRATED that President Clinton would not have acted unless Special Mediator William Usery "could see a way to break the deadlock" ("Scorecard," SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, 2/6 issue). Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole says the players don't have guaranteed help on Capitol Hill: "They might strike out up here" ("CBS Evening News," CBS, 2/1). NEWS & NOTES: Many minor league baseball execs "stormed" Capitol Hill yesterday to lobby for maintaining baseball's antitrust exemption. The minor league owners and execs stress they are working in their own interests, "not of the majors" (Rod Beaton, USA TODAY, 2/2)....Meanwhile, last night, the MLBPA hosted a "lobbying schmooze fest" for members of Congress. But as Michael Farquhar notes in this morning's WASHINGTON POST, it turned into "a field day for autograph-seeking fans" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/2)....The NLRB announced yesterday that it would rule on the players' complaint within two weeks (AP/TORONTO SUN, 2/2).